AQUA + Prozzäk + Much Video Dance @ MTELUS – September 23rd 2018

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Aqua rewind montreal

Nostalgia. In some circles, it’s a hell of a thing. This past Thursday, Sir Paul McCartney and his band came together to set Montreal’s Bell Centre on fire, thrilling baby-boomers and classic rock heads with a set of new tunes and – more importantly, during these increasingly uncertain times – some comforting faves. But on Sunday, the crowds at MTELUS had a different answer for what should happen if this ever-changing world in which we’re livin’ makes you give in and cry: a 90s Rewind.

Co-presented by Fierté Montréal and Evenko, AQUA and Prozzäk’s Canadian tour arrived in Montreal for its final show, capping off three weeks of bouncing around the country to celebrate their long history with the Great White North. With Aqua having sold a million albums in Canada since the release of their chart-topping Aquarium in 1997, and with Prozzäk marking the 20th anniversary of their hit record The Hot Show, 2018 is the perfect time for these MuchMusic-approved electro-pop acts to return for a victory lap of candy-coated music videos and fun. After all, none of us are getting any older.

The two bands have had some blasts-from-the-pasts as special guests this tour, bringing the likes of Whigfield (of “Saturday Night” fame) and O-Town (of MTV’s “Making the Band” fame) along for the ride. However, Montreal fans got a chance to get more intimate with the tour headliners – packing the MTELUS dance floor after an apparent re-scheduling away from the original and much larger arena of Laval’s Place Bell. There was some clear frustration in the line (and, evidently from the Facebook posts, ON-line as well), but fans still showed up to the venue ready to play in their best Britney braids, track pants, and flannel shirts tied around their waists.

Early showgoers entered to find the absolute joy of a MuchMusic Video Dance. This was the perfect way to set the time-tunnel mood, and it also helped me finally make good on a long-standing dream that I’ve had, ever since my own high school dances were banned in the aftermath of some generally sucky behaviour.

For those who also missed out on this Can-Con staple, the Much Video Dance was a traveling audio-visual feast for-hire, wherein MuchMusic VJs (via live or pre-taped video bumpers) would jockey a curated series of music videos du jour to get your party doing the Macarena or moshing to Serial Joe. Rewind attendees were treated to the vidular stylings of Mike, who compiled a seriously fantastic collection of mid-to-late 90s videos and occasionally popped onstage to throw MuchMusic sunglasses at people. It sounds a little silly on paper, having a venue full of adults paying money to dance to clips that they could grab on YouTube. But everyone on the floor had an incredible time dancing, singing, and saying “OH SHIT” at the immediate recognition of the next video’s opening frames/notes. I overheard from more than a few people that they’d be happy if this was the entire show.

You can check out the setlist for Mike’s videos below, but here are just a few stray observations to note:

Everyone knows the words to the first verse of The Rembrandts’ theme to “Friends”; nobody knows any of the words to the second and third verses.

Nick “The Mummy” Carter has the best monster costume in the Thriller-aping video for “Backstreet’s Back”. Please comment with your wrong opinion.

Sir Mix-a-Lot was definitely not lying about how much he likes butts.

B4-4 were misunderstood visionaries.

After the last beats of Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is In The Heart” faded, Canadian popsters Prozzäk took to the stage. Doing the cartoon-band thing before Gorillaz’ Damon Albarn moved away from Blur, the Jay Levine and James Bryan McCollum of today play on-stage and embody their animated alter-egos while the band’s music videos play onscreen. Prozzäk’s hits like “Strange Disease” and “” use the cartoon dudes (Simon – elfin, no-necked, and purple Oxford; Milo – beefy, polo-clad, and guitar-wielding), fake British accents, and pop-punk sounds to tell stories of forlorn love in the early digital age.

The crowd ate these singles up but became significantly more polite when the band (along with their unnamed DJ and her responsibly headphone-wearing baby) tried out pleasant and catchy newer songs like “Love Me Tinder” and “All Of The Feels”. These cuts from the meme-era may not have elicited the same reaction as their YTV Hit-List staples, but the band deftly reeled the crowd back in for the ending one-two. With the surprisingly empowering and inclusive “Be As” (introduced by the band: “we wrote this twenty years ago, but it still means a lot to us!”) and the house-disco of you“Sucks to Be You”, Prozzäk closed out the set and left the crowd bobbing their heads like Simon’s floaty cranium.

After another short interlude from our Music Video Guardian Angel (bringing “How Bizarre” together with “This Is How We Do It” for a chef’s kiss of medley about describing things), Scandinavia’s AQUA arrived onstage with a very Queen-like into to “Back from Mars” and Søren Rasted’s disco-keys. Vocalists Lene Nystrøm and René Dif don’t seem to have lost much energy over the last twenty years, bringing the otherwise frequently artificial sounds of Eurodance to life with a full band and backup singers.

They didn’t have to do much to bring the sweaty crowd to life either, who was already more excited to see AQUA than I ever expected an audience could be – and who definitely didn’t need Dif’s repeated instructions to know when it was time to “put your fuckin hands up!” I, however, crave structure and guidance, so I appreciated that my hands were in Dif’s hands as he gyrated around in his sequined deep-v and baggy pants. On her end, Nystrøm’s voice sounded fantastic, bubbling through mandatory fun like “Happy Boys” and “Barbie Girl” before really letting loose, Gaga-style, on slower and more unfamiliar anthems like “Playmate to Jesus”.

The band seemed genuinely humbled and excited to be there, taking a break to explain how at the start of the tour, they’d never imagined that they’d get a reception like this. The crowd gave the love back in equal amounts, following the band out of music video mainstays like “Dr. Jones” into more unfamiliar territory like the chunky arpeggiator and momentary metal guitar of “Turn Back Time” or the almost E-Street shuffle take on “Cartoon Heroes”. Deeper cut “Back To The 80s” was a centerpiece of these collective good vibes, with Dif bringing some of the best-dressed fans (ft. a blue jumpsuit/red bee-hive combo, and a t-shirt with the campaign-ready slogan “AQUA MADE ME GAY”) up on stage to party.

While Dif enthusiastically promised during the set that the band was prepared to play “OVERTIME” for their fans, AQUA wrapped up around 10:40 with the infectiously glitchy “Roses Are Red”. That’s pretty early for a show with no encore, but maybe this is overtime in Denmark – and maybe this is just overtime for AQUA’s repertoire of songs. Even so, the entire program gave fans their full dose of infectious pop, lights, and music videos. Hopefully, as well, with at least enough nostalgia to relive the warm feeling of dancing to their CRT televisions in their Starter jackets and scrunchies.

Much Video Dance Setlist One:

MMMBop – Hanson
All-Star – Smash Mouth
Tubthumping – Chumbawamba
I’ll Be There For You (Friends Theme) – The Rembrandts
Mambo No. 5 – Lou Bega
Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) – The Backstreet Boys
Wannabe – Spice Girls
Saturday Night – Whigfield
Blue – Eiffel 65
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince
Jump Around – House of Pain
All The Small Things – Blink 182
I’m Too Sexy – Right Said Fred
I Want It That Way – The Backstreet Boys
Get Down – B4-4
Groove Is In The Heart – Deee-Lite

Prozzäk Setlist:

Strange Disease
Love Me Tinder
All of the Feels
Feed the Night
I Like to Watch (Milo’s Night Out)
Love Fools Anonymous
Saturday People
Pretty Girls
Be As
Sucks to Be You

Much Video Dance Setlist Two:

Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) – C+C Music Factory
Baby Got Back – Sir Mix-a-Lot
What Is Love – Haddaway
How Bizarre – OMC
This Is How We Do It – Montell Jordan
S Club Party – S Club 7
Be Faithful – Fatman Scoop
Song 2 – Blur

Aqua Setlist:
Back From Mars
Around the World
Happy Boys & Girls
My Oh My
Playmate to Jesus
Barbie Girl
My Mamma Said
Good Morning Sunshine
Doctor Jones
Turn Back Time
Cartoon Heroes
Back to the 80’s
Lollipop (Candyman)
Roses Are Red

Review – Dan Corber

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